What is Camp NaNoWriMo? [An Insider’s Review]

Did you ever go to an overnight camp when you were younger? If you did, you know all about the excitement. The anticipation. The independence. Summer camp was a magical place that was set apart from reality. This is true of Camp Nanowrimo as well.

Summer camp would have you making best friends (or enemies) of your cabin mates in a matter of hours, even though friendships can take months to form in the “real world.”

If you miss disconnecting from the world and making brand new lifelong friends, consider taking a trip into the virtual wilderness for Camp Nanowrimo!

In addition to your new friends, you’ll leave armed with plenty of knowledge on how to write a book.

What is Camp Nanowrimo?

Camp Nanowrimo was created in 2011 and is an extension of the regular Nanowrimo program which runs in November. Camp Nanowrimo is described as “an idyllic writers retreat, smack-dab in the middle of your crazy life.”

For many, this is accurate. We have grown up and left the carefree days of summer camp behind us. But, Camp Nanowrimo allows us to go back for just a moment.

While it is not entirely the same thing, Camp Nanowrimo is a fun way for writers, young and old, to break away from reality and do some summer writing.

When is Camp Nanowrimo?

Camp takes place each year in both April and July. Like Nanowrimo itself, it lasts the entire month. Camp Nanowrimo is a little more relaxed than the November version. This means that most people can handle it twice a year.

The website will let you set up your profile and create your project in the weeks leading up to Camp. You will also be able to join and/or create a cabin about a week before the event starts.

This allows you to get everything all set so as soon as the first of the month arrives, you can start writing!

Camp Nanowrimo has a similar process and structure to regular Nanowrimo, with a few differences.

Camp NaNoWriMo Projects Can be Anything

Regular Nanowrimo is set up for novelists and encourages writers to start a brand new novel from scratch. Camp Nanowrimo aims to stretch these boundaries and openly include all kinds of writing. All kinds of experience is valuable when learning how to write a novel.

You are, of course, welcome to create another novel during Camp Nanowrimo. Or perhaps you want to continue working on one you have already started.

camp nanowrimo

However, the program is also quite well suited to other project types. Many use Camp Nanowrimo to write some short stories or work on their poetry.

Project categories include:

  • Novel
  • Nonfiction
  • Poetry
  • Revision
  • Script
  • Short Stories
  • Other

This is one way that Camp Nanowrimo is much more relaxed than the regular program. Just like a real summer camp, you’ll have people with gifts that are all over the map.

Choose Your Own Camp NaNoWriMo Goal

Nanowrimo itself has a pretty direct and straightforward challenge: write 50,000 words in one month. Camp Nanowrimo is a little more open when it comes to goal setting. They understand that life is busy and you can’t always write 50,000 words every single month!

This is why they encourage writers to set their own goals based on their lifestyle and availability. Goals of 30-999,999 words can be set.

Because Camp Nanowrimo is geared towards all types of writing, you can also set your goals in a few different ways:

  1. Words
  2. Hours
  3. Minutes
  4. Lines
  5. Pages

How you set your goal will depend on your choice of project.

A Camp Nanowrimo Template

While there are some differences, Camp Nanowrimo can still come with similar pressures and time constraints – especially for those who do choose a 50,000-word goal.

There is a Nanowrimo specific template you can use to make things a little easier:

nanowrimo template

The template does assume you are trying for 50,000 words. If you have set a lower goal for yourself during camp, you have a couple of options.

You can simply adjust the word counts for each day accordingly. Or, you can follow the word count for each day and aim to make it halfway through a novel, instead of all the way.

Either way, the template is Nanowrimo friendly and will no doubt help ease some of the pressure.

Don’t Forget to Make a Camp Nanowrimo Packing List

You can’t go to camp without packing your necessities! To prepare for Camp Nanowrimo, you will need to gather your writing supplies and take them with you as you dive into the insanity.

Your Essentials

Every writer is different so your packing list may not be the same as the person in the bunk next to you. But, there are some essentials you cannot go without.


Even if you are writing your words on the computer – you can’t do Camp Nanowrimo without a solid notebook and some sturdy, reliable pens or pencils. You never know when you may need to jot down some notes or do some last minute brainstorming.


One thing that is universal to all summer camps around the globe: sleep is not a thing! From sunup to sundown you are always on the go, and Camp Nanowrimo is no different.

Fitting large amounts of words into your busy schedule is not always easy. If you are serious about completing your project, sleep is likely going to be sacrificed. You will need something to help your brain function normally.

For many, coffee is a go-to Nanowrimo staple. Others may have different methods. Find what works for you, and make sure you have lots of it at the ready.

Your Tools

There are many tricks and tools out there that are designed specifically to help writers be the best writer they can be. Learning how to write a novel is a difficult endeavor, so it’s nice to get some help along the way.

Squibler is a great addition to your toolkit as it shares a very similar goal to Nanowrimo. It isn’t specific to any one month, but it wants to help you write and publish your book in 30 days.

Over at Squibler, they know how time-consuming writing a novel can be and they aim to make the process easier and more efficient.

Squibler offers a simple but effective way to create and store your notes. Files can be saved, organized, and easily found again at a later date.

camp nanowrimo tools

Squibler also makes your outlining process seamless, clean, and organized. Your writing can be broken down into both chapters and scenes.

Once you are in the editing stage, these can both be re-ordered and reorganized however you wish by simply dragging and dropping.

Once camp is over and you have a completed project, squibler is ready to help you through the publishing process when you’re ready. Squibler allows you to export your files for Kindle, PDF, or print. It does this while always keeping perfect image resolution.

It is a fantastic all-in-one writing tool that will be of great assistance as you work your way through the Camp Nanowrimo expedition.

Your Tunes

What is summer camp without some camp songs? For many, writing and music go hand in hand.

Having some music playing while you write can help you concentrate and stay on task. It will also minimize the effect of any distractions around you.

The music you listen to will also have an effect on your mood. Productive writing requires you to be in the right mood, and music will get you there.

You may also be looking to set a certain mood. For example – you might choose some rock and roll to get your adrenaline pumping enough to write a crazy, action-packed chase scene.

On the flipside, some soothing classical numbers may be what you need to craft that exotic, romantic beach scene.

Music can also help you through even the worst case of writer’s block. If you are trying to write a large number of words in a single month, you don’t have time for any blockage!

Music is a wonderful source of inspiration – it evokes emotion, and emotion will unlock your passion. It will ignite the imagination and get you back on track.

Experience the Craziness of Cabin Assignments

Once you have gotten yourself situated on the Camp Nanowrimo website and created a project for the month, it’s time to join a cabin.

camp nanowrimo cabins

Cabins are groups that consist of up to 20 other writers. You will be assigned to a cabin one of three ways, depending on what you choose:

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Whoever you end up with, you’ll have some support on this crazy writing venture you’re embarking on.

Get to Know Your Camp Nanowrimo Cabin Mates

Once you have been assigned a cabin, it’s time to start forging those lifelong friendships as you bond over the crazy writing journey you are all about to start.

Cabins come with a few features, one being a private chat room for cabin members only. This is a perfect way to start some conversation and learn about your new friends.

You can also choose to set a communal word count goal as a cabin. This keeps every writer accountable throughout the month. Slacking off will mean letting everyone down.

Join the Camp Nanowrimo Conversation

The main Nanowrimo forums are kept open and active year-round, which means they will be accessible during Camp Nanowrimo months. Things like the adoption society, the critique threads, genre-specific conversations, and regular writing babble will all be going on.

In addition to the regular forums though, there is a section that is specifically set aside for Camp Nanowrimo.

It is here that you can get to know the rest of the camp. Your cabin is home base, but there are a lot of other campers out there working on some interesting projects.

The forum is a place to chat and get connected, and perhaps find some inspiration to break that pesky writer’s block.

Campfire Circle

If you want to take a break but don’t want to disconnect from writing entirely, come on down to the campfire circle and join the conversation.

The “campfire circle” is an all-inclusive conversation thread in the Camp section of the Nanowrimo forums. Here you will find all kinds of different topics.

There will be things like:

  1. General, non-writing conversation
  2. Genre-specific discussions
  3. Accountability threads
  4. Critique threads
  5. Encouragement
  6. Inspiration
  7. Games and activities
  8. And much more

Once you’ve become besties with your cabin mates, this is where you’ll make even more friends. the forums will be very active during camp sessions.

But, many head over there in the few weeks before to share their preparation efforts and get inspired. Many writers will also hang around once camp is over to get help with their editing process.

Track Your Camp NaNoWriMo Word Count

Don’t forget you track your word count every day. Updating it on the website is quick and easy, and it allows you to keep track of your progress.

If you ever forget to update, you do have the option to input a word count for each individual day. This is a great option that allows you to track your progress accurately even if you forget to update.

Do Not Edit!

The golden rule that governs all of Camp Nanowrimo is simple: there is no editing allowed!

Resist the urge to go back and re-write that sentence, or replace that word you don’t like. The time for editing will come when camp is over.

The goal of Camp Nanowrimo is to simply get words written. You will never meet your goal if you are constantly stopping to edit.

When your inner editor tries to rear its ugly head, you tell it to go away and come back next month.

Real World Camp NaNoWriMo Events

Much like regular Nanowrimo events in November, there will likely be some meetings you can attend in person throughout Camp Nanowrimo. These will run similarly to a typical Nanowrimo write-in, but a little more summery!

You can connect with your local region through the main Nanowrimo website.

Instead of being cooped up in a coffee shop, try taking the write-in to the woods. If you are really ambitious, your group could try to rent a real-life cabin and get the full camping experience.

One of the greatest things about write-ins are the word sprints. If no one in the group is running word sprints, don’t be afraid to step up and do it yourself! Word sprints are a fun and easy to way have you catapulting towards that word count goal in no time.

Set a timer for a predetermined amount of time. Anywhere from 5-30 minutes. While the clock is ticking, everyone writes like mad. When time is up, whoever wrote the most words is the winner. Try introducing some small prizes for extra incentive.

How ever the events go down, in-person meetings will be beneficial to your Camp Nanowrimo success. Writing as a group will keep everyone on-task and focused.

You can encourage one another and offer help, inspiration, pep talks, and brainstorming assistance.

Camp Nanowrimo Sponsor Offers

Nanowrimo has some awesome partners and sponsors who are just as passionate about writing as they are. Each year, Nanowrimo teams up with their sponsors to offer both winners and participants some discounts.

The offers sometimes change, but the products are always writing related. Some examples of past offers include:

  • Scrivener. An award-winning, top-rated word processor that is designed just for writers. Winners will get 50% off, while participants will get 20% off.
  • Dabble. This is a tool that aims to make writing as easy as possible. It helps you plan, helps you stay organized, and tracks your goals and progress. Winners will get 50% off, while participants will get 20% off.
  • StoryShop. They offer assistance with world building and outlining. They want to make writing seamless for you, so they provide a fantastic distraction-free writing environment. Winners and participants can get three months of StoryShop Pro for free.

These discounts and offers can be another way to motivate yourself. Writing tools are useful, but they can be expensive. Earning yourself a discount can help you add to your writer’s toolbox without breaking the bank.

Camp Nanowrimo Resources

Even though camp is pretty laid back, you might still get stressed out or stuck. If this happens, Camp Nanowrimo has a lot of helpful resources for you to use.

Each session, Camp Nanowrimo has a few camp counselors come on board. They are there to offer help and guidance. Much of what they have to say is posted on the Nanowrimo blog.

Camp Nanowrimo has archived all of these articles and organized them into categories for you:

  • Planning
  • Beginnings
  • Characters
  • Scenes
  • Structure
  • Language and Dialogue
  • Cliches
  • Endings
  • Revision
  • The Writing Life

In addition to the vast amount of novel-related help available, they offer some guidance on other types of projects as well.

camp nanowrimo resources

Perhaps you are interested in some of these projects but don’t know where to start. Camp Nanowrimo is there to help. They want to offer you as much support, encouragement, and guidance as possible.

It’s Time to Get Packing

There are many who love the crazy, hectic, sleep-deprived, word-filled November. Camp Nanowrimo is a perfect chance to replicate the experience over the summer. If speed writing and camp songs are your things, Camp Nanowrimo is for you.

Camp Nanowrimo puts a new and interesting twist on the regular Nanowrimo of November. It has a more relaxed vibe and gives you more control over your goals and projects.

You can make Camp just as challenging as November by setting the typical 50k word goal. You can also work at your own pace with a personalized goal that suits you, your project, and your lifestyle.

However you choose to go about it, Camp Nanowrimo is a virtual writer retreat that will help teach you how to write a book. It’s something you just don’t want to miss.  



Josh Fechter
Josh is the founder and CEO of Squibler.